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Dante Ferretti Book Review

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“I believe that nothing is impossible, something I learned from Fellini,” says Dante Ferretti, in an interview that kicks off a pictorially lavish new volume documenting the renowned production designer’s monumentally imaginative work over the past four decades for some of the world’s top film directors.A journey through Ferretti: The art of production design provides ample evidence that for the 60-year-old Italian, no director’s request no matter how demanding and visionary, has proven impossible for him to pull off. And he’s always done it with great panache.The sumptuous tome, published in Milan by the Academy of the Imagination, with text in both Italian and English, could not have come out at a better time. It was released just before Ferretti recently won his first Oscar (after six other nominations) for best art direction for his work on The Aviator, the biopic about Howard Hughes, directed by Martin Scorsese. The award was shared with set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo, Ferretti’s wife and long-time collaborator.The new book indeed leads off with Ferretti’s grand set renderings for The Aviator, along with photos of actual scenes from the movie, a format followed throughout the book. Most spectacular is his huge drawing for the memorable Hells Angels premiere scene at Grauman’s Chinese Theater with prop airplanes dangling over the crowds on Hollywood Blvd. where klieg lights blaze.From there the book journeys backward, surveying Ferretti’s imaginative grandeur on gargantuan efforts like Civil War epic Cold Mountain and teeming 19th century Gotham in Gangs of New York. The massive set for Gangs was built at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios where he learned his craft and made his mark working for Federico Fellini (And the Ship Sails On, Ginger and Fred, City of Women) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (Medea, The Decameron, Salo).There are surprise delights along the way from the gingerbread fantasy of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to Ferretti’s neo-Fascist production designs for Titus. Ferretti’s remarkable work on a total of 25 films is documented. And the finale is a series of designs for seven operas.In the opening interview with Gabriele Lucci, the founder of the Academy of the Imagination, Ferretti traces his career highlights. Better than the text are a series of accompanying black and white photos of him wandering around his favorite stomping ground, Cinecitta, where he still keeps his office.The book is published in a limited edition. The price is $175. Arcana Books on the Arts in Santa Monica (310 458 1499) has been carrying the book, including some signed copies.

Written by Jack Egan

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